The Body Mapping Project

Connecting with the Body through Art and Language


...sometimes, when we are overwhelmed, and presence is too painful, it’s helpful to look outward towards sources that reflect our own experiences with some distance.

Let’s take a break, a breath, from looking at ourselves for a moment. I often talk about checking in with yourself, and your body, getting “grounded,” and the importance of listening to your felt senses in order to better understand what your body needs. But sometimes, when we are overwhelmed, and presence is too painful, it’s helpful to look outward towards sources that reflect our own experiences with some distance.


What does it feel like in my body right now?

The Body Mapping Project is a blog series curating art, poems, songs, and writings from individuals in our community who lovingly, and vulnerably bring you accounts of their bodies. Each person has responded in their own way, to the question:


what does it feel like in my body right now?


Some individuals have requested to remain anonymous, and others, share their identities openly. **If you would like to contribute your own piece, you can submit your art or writing to Meredith at recentermassage@gmail.com.

Let's learn more about our bodies and healing through art and language!


Trigger Warning:

Some of these pieces of art and writing share memories, moments and descriptions of explicit content such as human anatomy, adult relations, child labor, emotional or psychological distress, and physical pain. The following content is not intended as erotica, or to promote sexual arousal, nor to activate any psychological harm to others. If any of the above content feels unsafe or you feel sensitive to any of the above topics, I truly hope you will take care of yourself and not take on unnecessary pressure to read on. We are all processing a lot, and it’s ok to not have the energy or bandwidth to deal with how you currently feel.


*Please respect the creators! Keep all responses/comments to the works respectful in language and intent. It is an act of vulnerability and courage to share such personal experiences with others, and this space is meant to cultivate healing, love, and acceptance of ourselves and others.


If you do choose to consume, I hope you will find inspiration, hope and self acceptance through these individuals’ incredible works. Enjoy!


_________________


Listen Closely


Written and illustrated by a young mother several months after giving birth to her first child. In a beautifully raw and tender expose, she maps out her relationship to her body through the months of change.



Over the course of what I would later be told over and over was a “swift” labor, my body spoke:


My belly told me it would not burst; it would turn itself to stone and protect my tiny child until the very last moment.


My hips told me they were ready to dance; they would gracefully move apart without snapping.


My legs whispered to me that they were tired; so tired of standing; but they knew my back was in pain so they would go on holding me up and walking me around that room, until the baby was in my arms, and I could finally lay down.


My back screamed that it was in pain, and it asked me why this was happening; and it begged me to make the pain stop.


My hands yelled at me to clench them as hard as felt necessary; whenever my grip loosened in time with a thirty-second long spasm, my hands yelled in unison “don’t let go!” So I grabbed whatever I could - a sheet, a rail, my thighs, my partners hand - and I held on.


My shoulders never spoke. They were too busy embracing my spine as it wept and winced in time with the full-body pulse of my uterus.


My buttocks spoke in plain, terrifying terms. It told me, in excruciating detail, that it planned to take much of the force whenever I was ready to push. And it did.


My Vagina did not speak. It sang. It howled with me and it laughed with me. The pain made sense there and only there.


When the baby came, everything suddenly went silent, except for the soft breathing of my vagina as it bled freely; the whispers of my knees as they shook; the humming of my shoulders which had finally laid down my spine to sleep deeply; my buttocks still whimpered, but like a child whose nightmare is not yet far enough away...


In that moment of mostly silent, altogether calm release, I have never been more at peace in my entire life. I look up...my partner was with me the entire time.


One month later:


My partner needs physical intimacy like he has never needed it before. A voice in his head is insisting that if I do not want it, I never will again.

I am sore, exhausted, and beginning to realize that I do not trust my partner with my body.

My libido returns with no warning.

We have sex.


Two months later:


His selfish words have horrified me. My flinching distrust has horrified him. We are stuck, circling each other, desperate to be loved and terrified of being hurt.


Two months and several days later:


We are laying in bed. Naked because we are both tired of clothing that smells like spit up. Neither of us are horny...we have taught our bodies not to desire each other — or else


My partner turns over onto his stomach and I make a point to gently caress his buttocks (he has told me before that this feels incredibly vulnerable and loving). As I do, he exhales, telling me that he feels strong emotions when I touch him there. I ask what it makes him feel...and he tells me. His response surprises me, and a piece of my distrust cracks and melts away.


I spend the next thirty minutes tracing a complicated map along his body, and as my fingers traverse valleys, peaks and hemispheres, one by one he tells me what it is all saying to him. Every answer thaws the frozen grip on my trust.


His body admitted that it felt loved, protected, respected, desired, safe...and here and there, scared and little.


When I’m done, I ask him to do the same for me. He does. His touch is intentional and asked for. I am free to listen, once more, as my body speaks for the first time in two months:


My left leg tells me it is strong and capable. My right tells me it is weakened from so much carrying.


My back barely speaks; it is numb, and unwilling to let itself feel.


My hands are as sure of themselves as ever;


My buttocks is scared.


My belly is empty and vulnerable.


My love handles do not want to be touched.


My breasts are unconvinced of their value. They have played too many roles in too little a time.


My neck, alone, feels sensual; uncomfortably self aware in its solitude.


At the end of it all, my partner and I lie there, soft. We belong together again, finally. I don’t wince, and he does not demand. We only want to take care of the other.


I wish this was the first thing we did, after our baby was born. I wish we had done it the next day; or at the end of our first sleepless week; or before the first time I brought my body close to his again; or before we had sex again the first time; or the second; or the third.


I wish we had performed this ritual of trust, listening and intent.


Now we have. Now we can. Now we will.





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